24th Oct 2016

Controversial data-sharing deal to get the go-ahead

  • The agreement has been pushed through at dizzying speed, according to critics in the European Parliament (Photo: Antje Wildgrube)

EU home affairs ministers are set to give their backing to a data-sharing agreement that would allow EU states to give one another automatic access to genetic records, fingerprints and traffic offences as well as see national police operating across borders.

Today (12 June) the 27 member states are expected to approve the transposition of the so-called Prüm Treaty into EU law-books – a move aimed at tracking down serious crime suspects and terror groups.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Under the deal, a member state will gain access to the "reference data" in the DNA files of another member state, with the power to conduct automated searches by comparing DNA profiles. Reference data will not contain any information directly identifying the person.

In some cases such as sport events or European Council meetings, however, member states will also share personal data of the suspects.

In addition, national police may enter another EU state's territory and operate alongside their colleagues, while carrying their usual service weapons and wearing their own national uniforms.

The initial push for stronger EU-wide security legislation came from Germany, the current president of the bloc and co-author of the original Prüm Treaty - signed in 2005 as a seven-nation pact between Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Luxemburg, the Netherlands and Spain.

However, Berlin failed to secure one-to-one transposition of the original document to the EU law and some important parts will not apply across the entire EU bloc.

The main opposition came from the UK and Ireland, traditional advocates of having full control over the sensitive area of justice and home affairs.

Following their opposition, a scheme to allow hot pursuit - where police officers cross borders without asking permission from the host country - has been removed. Apart from that, the new slimmed-down document does not mention air marshals boarding foreign planes, something also allowed under the Prüm Treaty.

But despite the scope of the data-sharing deal being significantly reduced, the UK is trying to keep the back door open.

One UK diplomat told EUobserver London would like to adopt the deal under the so-called "general approach" decision-making mechanism instead of "political agreement". "Political agreement means firm and definitive yes", a diplomat said, adding the country would like to have some room for change after the deal is scrutinized by its parliament.

MEPs' reservations

Meanwhile, some MEPs have also expressed doubts about the possible adoption of the seven-nation data-sharing pact, saying it was discussed at "dizzying speed".

"The entire process is a complete scandal", a British liberal Sarah Ludford said, adding the deal has been "cooked up by national officials outside the EU...and laundered by the Brussels' machinery on the basis of take it or leave it".

According to UK conservative MEP Syed Kamall "the Prüm Treaty has been a dangerous pet project of the German presidency. In forcing it through, the Germans have ignored the views of the European Parliament and the concerns of the EU data protection chief".

Mr Kamal has called on the British government to veto the proposals, arguing that "we are sleepwalking into a Big Brother Europe while our government stands idly by."

MEPs have also urged the EU capitals to strengthen the confidentiality of personal data under their new deal. Although some provisions of the Prüm Treaty are protective, they cannot be the only data protection umbrella, a French socialist MEP Martine Roure said.

But the governments - still enjoying full sovereignty over the justice and home affairs area - have turned down MEPs' suggestions, with one EU diplomat saying "any change would upset the balance of the treaty".

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFADraft Bill for a 2nd Scottish Independence Referendum
  2. UNICEFCalls on European Council to Address Plight of Refugee and Migrant Children
  3. ECTAJoin us on 9-10 November in Brussels and Discover the new EU Digital Landscape
  4. Access NowCan you Hear me now? Verizon’s Opportunity to Stand for Global Users
  5. Belgrade Security ForumMeaningful Dialogue Missing Not Only in the Balkans, but Throughout Europe
  6. EASPDJoin the Trip! 20 Years on the Road. Conference & Photo Exhibition on 19-21 October
  7. EuropecheEU Fishing Sector Celebrates Sustainably Sourced Seafood in EU Parliament
  8. World VisionWomen and Girls Urge EU Leadership to Help end Gender-based Violence
  9. Dialogue PlatformIs Jihadism Blind Spot of Western Intellectuals ? Wednesday 26 October
  10. Belgrade Security ForumGet the Latest News and Updates on the Belgrade Security Forum @BelSecForum
  11. Crowdsourcing Week EuropeMaster Crowdsourcing, Crowdfunding and Innovation! Conference 21 November - 10% Discount Code CSWEU16
  12. EJCEU Parliament's Roadmap for Relations with Iran a Massive Missed Opportunity